Lockdown Binge #11: Search Party
Our writers tell us what TV series are getting them through being stuck in their houses – this time, a hidden gem which is about to drop some brand new episodes...
Search Party is quite possibly the most underrated show on television. This sharply written black comedy has become a cult favourite for its biting satire, gripping suspense and stellar performances, but deserves to be getting far more mainstream attention.
As it prepares to drop its long-delayed third season, there's never been a better time to catch up on how an earnest search for a missing person turns into a waking nightmare for all involved.
Here's why Search Party deserves to be your next lockdown binge...
What is Search Party about?
Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) stars as Dory Sief, a young woman stuck in a dead-end job and a boring relationship, who yearns for something to breathe meaning into her empty existence. It's for this reason that she becomes fixated on finding Chantal Witherbottom, a college acquaintance she barely knew who has gone missing under suspicious circumstances. The first season unravels this intriguing mystery, as Dory is led in strange and unexpected directions on her quest for answers, culminating in a gut-punch finale that sets the show on a darker path for its second outing.
Why should I watch Search Party?
Search Party has a thrilling narrative that lends itself beautifully to binge watching, with each 20-minute instalment packing an irresistible twist or clue that will send you straight into the next one. But it also functions as a timely and often hilarious commentary on vapid millennial culture, one that feels hyper-relevant and incredibly authentic.
Dory's struggle with feelings of disillusionment and aimlessness will be instantly recognisable to anyone yet to find their path in life. She gets little solace from longtime partner Drew (John Reynolds), who has grown content with their state of lethargy and has little interest in breaking the status quo. Both are guilty of unquestionably selfish acts in their misguided attempts to be good people, but the compelling performances keep you onside even as the waters around them become increasingly murky.
The writers unleash their more overt satirical side through Dory's close friends, Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner), products of the social media generation who have grown up under the illusion that the world revolves around them. Both are textbook narcissists and the show is well aware of it, exposing their outrageous behaviour rather than elevating or idolising it as society has a tendency to do (looking at you, Kardashians).
One example of Search Party's razor-sharp satire is Elliott's ego-serving charity POUR, which throws lavish fundraisers for its upper middle-class supporters with the goal of sending designer water bottles to remote African villages. "But obviously the problem in Africa is not that they don't have water bottles, it's that they don't have water," says one canny observer who Elliott quickly dismisses. It's the kind of tone-deaf cause that you can easily imagine certain influencers jumping on without a second thought and that's what makes it so brilliant.
It also feeds into the overarching theme of the series, which explores the lengths that people will go to in order to make themselves feel special - and the eventual cost of such behaviour. Indeed, the second season of Search Party retains its sense of humour, but takes inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock's psychological thrillers as it delves into darker material. The series is stylishly presented throughout, with slick direction from creators Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers and Michael Showalter and an atmospheric soundtrack comprised of independent musicians.
Where can I watch Search Party?
In the UK, Search Party is available to purchase on Amazon Prime Video for just £4.99 per season. That means you can get every episode released so far for less than a tenner, which is an absolute steal.
In the US, the first two seasons of Search Party are available to stream now on HBO Max, where the (brand new) third season will start airing from Thursday 25th June.